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By News-Argus Staff

Thanks to the management

of professional fisheries biolo-

gists such as Lewistown’s Clint

Smith, local reservoirs offer a

wide spectrum of options for

anglers. Smith is the biologist

for Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Region 4 office in Lewistown.

“This is going to be a great

year for fishing,” Smith said. “It

was a pretty good year, without

a lot of winter kill. We have a

reasonable snowpack. My only

concern is whether a little bit

lighter snowpack could affect

flowing water by late summer.

But overall, things are looking

good for anglers.”

Smith should know – he is

responsible for doing invento-

ries of fish numbers, species and

condition for the lakes, streams

and ponds in this area.

Generally, Smith said, stock-

ing of various waters is depen-

dent on the type of habitat and

what fish can be supported.

However, some stocking is done

primarily to support recreation-

al fishing.

“When we stock trout in res-

ervoirs, we know habitat condi-

tions are not present to allow

them to reproduce,” Smith said.

“Trout need flowing water for

reproduction. So lake and pond

stocking is done for either ‘put

and take’ or ‘put, grow and take.’

Unless the trout can goupstream

or downstream and find habitat,

they are not going to repro-

duce.”

On the other hand, fish such

as largemouth bass and crappie

are expected to naturally repro-

duce. Different fisheries are

stocked with what biologists

determine to be the right mix

for sportsman and the habitat.

“What we’ve heard from the

public is that they want more

diverse fishing close to town,”

Smith said.

Trout stocked in Central

Montana come from the Big

Spring Trout Hatchery located

southeast of Lewistown at the

headwaters of Spring Creek.

Warmer water fish come

from other Montana hatcheries,

such as Miles City or Fort Peck.

Post-stocking survival rates

can be extremely variable,

Smith said.

“If habitat conditions are

right and transportation goes

well, the fish can do very well.

On a rough guess, if we plant

20,000 largemouth bass, for

example, we could end up with

6,000 adult fish to winter over

to the next year,” he explained.

Much goes into the decision

of what fish, and how many of

them, to stock. Fish, Wildlife

and Parks policy, Smith said, is

not to stock flowing water, so as

not to disrupt natural popula-

tions of fish. For lakes, ponds

and reservoirs, stocking plans

depend on the end goal for each

body of water.

Carter Ponds

Upper and Lower Carter

Ponds are traditionally two of

the most productive trout reser-

voirs in Central Montana.

For many years, they have

gained statewide acclaim for

producing big, chunky rainbow

trout. That changed a few years

ago, however, after bluegill were

illegally introduced into the

ponds. As the bluegill grew in

population, the trout took a hit.

The ponds were eventually

drained and then treated in 2015

to remove all fish. Smith said so

far the treatment appears to be

successful. In 2016 FWP stocked

trout in a mix of different sizes,

including some larger fish in the

10-12 inch range. This year an

additional 4,500 trout will be

added to the mix.

Smith said the long-term

plan is to manage the upper

pond and as grow-and-take type

fishery and the lower pond as

more of a trophy trout pond,

with some different regulations

geared to growing bigger trout.

Ackley Lake

Ackley Lake near Hobson,

was stocked two years ago with

5,000 tiger muskie, along with

its normal 45,000 rainbow trout.

There have already been some

reports of muskie, in the 16-20

inch size, being caught at the

reservoir. But it will be a while

before any of them reach the 40

inches, which is the minimum

size at which they can be kept.

Until they reach that size, the

muskie must be released back

into the reservoir.

The muskie were put in the

reservoir to control the sucker

population, which has been an

ongoing problem. Tiger muskie

are sterile and will not repro-

duce, so there is no risk of them

taking over the reservoir. Tiger

Muskie were introduced into

Deadman’s Basin several years

ago and it continues to be a

popular fishery for trout and

muskie.

Big Casino Creek Reservoir

Another reservoir seeing

some changes is Big Casino

Creek Reservoir south of Lewis-

town. Largemouth bass and

crappie were stocked in 2015.

The crappie were of various

sizes, while the bass stocking

included 5,000 2-inchers.

Smith is hopeful it will be a

good step toward diversifying

the fishing opportunities in the

local area.

“We may end up introducing

tiger muskie here to control the

suckers, but first I want to see if

the bass predator fishery can be

established,” Smith said.

The reservoir is a bit on the

cold side for bass, and Smith

wonders if this will be an issue.

“In the early 2000s, walleye

were stocked there, but the

turnover rate (rate of cold water

coming into the reservoir from

Casino Creek) was likely the

reason it didn’t establish,” Smith

said.

Smith said the bass stocked a

couple of years ago should be

reaching catchable size now,

and he is hopeful this fishery

can be returned to an angler’s

paradise soon.

Winnett area reservoirs

Smith said anglers heading

east of Lewistown should find

some good fishing in areas of

the Breaks and at Petrolia Reser-

voir.

Petrolia will continue to be

stocked with 20,000 walleye

and has decent numbers of

perch. There is also the opportu-

nity to get into some nice pike.

One reservoir near Winnett

that might not be as productive

this season is Yellow Water.

Smith said that reservoir has

high numbers of carp and suck-

ers, which compete with trout

for food. However, stocking of

trout continues.

North of Winnett, the Blood

and Dry Blood reservoirs are

expected to be good bets for

largemouth bass, and Dry Blood

should be good for crappie.

Jake’s Reservoir has sauger and

perch and Drag Creek Reservoir

is the best bet for bluegill.

Smith said War Horse Reser-

voir northwest of Winnett was a

popular fishery in the 1970s and

has had good water levels again

in recent years. In surveying the

reservoir, the FWP found places

with water depths of 18 feet.

Smith said it will be stocked

with 20,000 largemouth bass

this year.

To learn more about Central

Montana’s fisheries, be sure to

pick up a copy of the Region 4

Pond Fishing Guide.

saturday, april 1, 2017

page 9

Central Montana Fishing Guide

Denton, MT • 406-567-3035

on the way to your

favorite fishing hole for a

meal or your favorite beverage.

Stop in at the Shade Tree

Call ahead!

We’ll have

it waiting!

Local reservoirs offer variety of opportunities

Largemouth bass can be

found in a handful of res-

ervoirs in Petroleum

County.

Photo by Jacques Rutten